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There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

people seem to ignore more or less everything
Topic: Miscellaneous 2:02 pm EST, Mar  5, 2015

Herb Lin:

Every boardroom should be contemplating the possibility that its company's computer systems will be destroyed and private email, salary information, and much more publicly revealed. Executives need to decide what it's worth to defend against these outcomes.

Jason Koebler:

The State Department says that John Kerry is the "first Secretary of State to rely primarily on a email account;" all predecessors used their personal email (if any).


It has never been more important to follow security best practices and adopt the most recent technologies.

Danny Bradbury:

Fewer than one in four Chrome users follow SSL certificate warnings ... The problem goes beyond mere SSL certificate warnings, say experts. Many people seem to ignore more or less everything that their computers warn them about.


Although we are not aware of anyone abusing this certificate in the wild, it's a real risk and would be hard to detect.

Jason Szep:

In an interview with Reuters, Obama said he was concerned about Beijing's plans for a far-reaching counterterrorism law that would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security "backdoors" in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access.

Matthew Green:

Encryption backdoors will always turn around and bite you in the ass. They are never worth it.

Mike Rogers:

I think we can work our way through this.

the thousandth clown theory
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:30 am EST, Mar  3, 2015

Ari Oliver:

The lone trader does his analysis and doesn't worry about being taken because he is just one guy trying to make a few trades. And then his setup happens and he takes his position ... and the market does exactly the thing that will cause him the biggest loss. How can this be? he thinks. He is just one clown trying to clip a few ticks or points, here and there, not worthy of being a target. But he starts to suspect that maybe he is just one of a thousand clowns, or ten thousand, who are all doing exactly the same analysis at precisely the same time and taking the same positions, which are exploited by a better algo in a box somewhere with huge backing. This "thousandth clown theory" starts to gnaw at him, make him doubt.

Man, in SMBC:

I know that the babysitter's club won't cook and eat my children, but I'd just relax more if a profit-motivated third party provided confirmation.

Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen:

"We asked one kid to design his ideal room," another researcher told us. "And it had all sorts of covert elements: booby traps and CSI [from the Crime Scene Investigation TV series] secret doorways. Everything was communicating, 'Stay out!'" The anthropologists discerned that the box of poison mushrooms and the booby-trapped room were both reactions against the staging and surveillance happening in the children's lives.

Omid Safi:

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Stanley Kubrick:

Either you care, or you don't. There's no in-between. And if you care, then go all of the way.

the deeper fear
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:23 am EST, Mar  3, 2015

Emrys Westacott:

People are less likely to abuse the power [surveillance] gives them if they know that they, too, are vulnerable. Thus the deeper fear for many has to do with situations where surveillance and access to information is combined with an asymmetrical power structure.

David Banks:

Even if we lived in a world where everyone had to prove their position with statistical data, and there were monitoring stations evenly distributed across the country, we would still face the issue of what political sociologists of science call "organized ignorance." That is, powerful actors like governments and companies make a point to not understand things so that they are difficult or impossible to regulate. Whether it is counting the number of sexual assaults, or the amount of chemicals used in fracking, intentionally not collecting data is a powerful tool. So while I agree ... that people should base important decisions on sound data, we should also acknowledge that access to data is deeply uneven.

Lionel Trilling:

Perhaps at no other time has the enterprise of moral realism ever been so much needed, for at no other time have so many people committed themselves to moral righteousness. We have the books that point out the bad conditions, that praise us for taking progressive attitudes. We have no books that raise questions in our minds not only about conditions but about ourselves, that lead us to refine our motives and ask what might lie behind our good impulses.

Moral indignation, which has been said to be the favorite emotion of the middle class, may be in itself an exquisite pleasure.

We must be aware of the dangers which lie in our most generous wishes. Some paradox of our natures leads us, when once we have made our fellowmen the objects of our enlightened interest to go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.

Cormac McCarthy, "Blood Meridian":

At dusk they halted and built a fire and roasted the deer. The night was much enclosed about them and there were no stars. To the north they could see other fires that burned red and sullen along the invisible ridges. They ate and moved on, leaving the fire on the ground behind them, and as they rode up into the mountains this fire seemed to become altered of its location, now here, now there, drawing away, or shifting unaccountably along the flank of their movement. Like some ignis fatuus belated upon the road behind them which all could see and of which none spoke. For this will to deceive that is in things luminous may manifest itself likewise in retrospect and so by sleight of some fixed part of a journey already accomplished may also post men to fraudulent destinies.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

That the enemy is us, is never easy to take.

of guards, gates, and guns
Topic: Miscellaneous 3:33 pm EST, Mar  1, 2015

Gleb Pavlovsky:

In this kind of atmosphere, everything is possible. This is a Weimar atmosphere. There are no longer any limits.

Susannah Karlsson, of Brooklyn Defender Services, on Corrective Education Company:

It's a private company acting as prosecutor, judge, jury, and collector. That's remarkable.

Charlie Stross:

Some folks (especially Americans) seem to think that their AR-15s are a guarantor that they can resist tyranny. But guns are an 18th century response to 18th century threats to democracy. Capital doesn't need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don't plead guilty.

a crisis of confidence
Topic: Miscellaneous 3:32 pm EST, Mar  1, 2015

Doug Franklin:

A secure developer needs appropriate levels of both paranoia and understanding of the threat.


We are losing the battle and it is not because China is hacking us all with advanced malware on par with Stuxnet. We all need to understand that what we see out of the media is hype and what we see out of the vendors is marketing and not necessarily what we really need.

Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson:

The hackers first hijacked a translation website that the insurer's customer representatives used when dealing with foreign clients, using it to implant malware on the company's computers, the person said.

Kyle Wiens:

It's entirely possible that changing the engine timing on his own tractor makes a farmer a criminal.


Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal. In addition, we reiterate that Federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment, including devices that interfere with Wi-Fi, cellular, or public safety communications.

Emrys Westacott:

What we should fear is not so much the technology as those who who are willing to misuse it.

Westley McDuffie:

Having the best tool on the planet will do nothing for your posture if you are a complete moron.

Michael Hayden:

We use[d] to love it when a target had great confidence that it was (unbreakably) secure!!

something must be wrong with you
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:07 am EST, Feb 28, 2015

Leigh Alexander:

No matter what else is happening, suddenly you're thinking about the phone. Don't reach for the phone, you scold yourself automatically, fixing your gaze with effort on the tear-filled eyes of the person who is telling you something important about their life. And then you feel deservedly awful about yourself. What on earth could be happening in your phone that is more important than this? Something must be wrong with you.

David Kilcillen:

People don't get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.

Philippe Verduyn et al:

Passive Facebook usage undermines affective well-being.

Simon Kuper:

One per centers today announce themselves not by their clothes or accents but by their networks. People pull out their smartphones over dinner not just because they are addicted, bored or keen to show their busyness but because the phone is the physical manifestation of their networks.


Our network architecture is designed like a cross between an onion and an orange.

Nicholas Weaver:

The Internet is supposed to lose packets.

Tim Wu:

It has been a tough year for what once passed as conventional wisdom.

Scott Atran:

If you want to find out who's going to fight and die, if you want to break up a particular terrorist cell, find out what they're eating and how they dress. Plots never occur in mosques: you have to be quiet in a mosque. They occur in fast food places, soccer fields, picnics and barbeques.


Underwear should be the normal type that people wear, not anything that shows you're a fundamentalist.

Jonathan Mahler:

How could different people see the same article of clothing so differently?

it might cost you something
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:56 pm EST, Feb 27, 2015

Robert Wright:

ISIS is here. And it's here, in part, because we got all freaked out about Al Qaeda and overreacted to it. And now we're getting freaked out about ISIS.

Charles Simic:

"Things will never be the same in this country", people kept saying after September 11, and that has proved to be true. What hasn't changed is our belief that we can eradicate evil in the world.

Adam Gopnik:

Do you have the courage to embrace an inarguable and obvious truth when it might cost you something to do so? A politician who fails this test is not high-minded or neutral; he or she is just craven, and shouldn't be trusted with power.

Nicole Hensley:

Kermit Elementary School officials called it a threat when the 9-year-old boy, Aiden Steward, in a playful act of make-believe, told a classmate he could make him disappear with a ring forged in fictional Middle Earth's Mount Doom.

Megha Rajagopalan:

The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen suspended 14 police officers and put a police chief under investigation on Tuesday on suspicion of feasting on an endangered giant salamander, state media reported.

Abu Ahmed:

This can't be stopped now. This is out of the control of any man.

long hours of complete darkness
Topic: Miscellaneous 9:39 pm EST, Feb 27, 2015

Paul Graham:

When I encounter a startup with a lame-sounding idea, I ask "What Microsoft is this the Altair Basic of?"

Alastair Humphreys:

You must be willing to accept that things do not come about instantly. Too many people set the cart before the horse, seeking the honour and recognition but without first completing the hazardous journey on low wages in the bitter cold through long hours of complete darkness.

Horace Dediu:

Whether your approach and innovation sustains the hegemony or changes it will largely depend on your business model being asymmetric to the incumbent. Determining what is and isn't symmetric should be the first step in your analysis.

Richard Hamming:

Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can. If you think you can't, almost surely you are not going to.


It's important to understand that it isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

a proper trap
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:32 am EST, Feb 24, 2015

Michael Haneke:

What in people's upbringing makes them willing to surrender their responsibilities?

Emrys Westacott:

The real danger isn't transparency but asymmetry.

James Fallows:

As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not.

Elizabeth D. Samet:

The invocation of veteran status as shorthand for some particular quality or capacity ... seems, among other things, to be a symptom of the current civilian-military gap ...

Matt Richtel:

To these vets, thanking soldiers for their service symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at great distance -- physically, spiritually, economically. It raises questions of the meaning of patriotism, shared purpose and, pointedly, what you're supposed to say to those who put their lives on the line and are uncomfortable about being thanked for it.

Kyle Steiner:

You know, I didn't have to do shit. I didn't have to go in the army. I didn't have to become airborne infantry. I didn't have to do any of that. But I did, you know?

And, that comment, "you did what you had to do," just drives me insane.

Because is that what God's going to say? "You did what you had to do, good job"? Punch you on the shoulder and fucking say, "welcome to heaven," you know? I don't think so.

Michael Haneke:

The willingness to follow ideological Pied Pipers arises everywhere and in every age. All that's needed are misery, humiliation and hopelessness, and the longing for deliverance swells up. Anyone who promises salvation will find followers, and it doesn't really matter whether theirs is a right- or a left-wing ideology, a political or a religious doctrine of salvation.

Akim Reinhardt:

We build ideas like large, intricate Rube Goldberg contraptions. We're desperate to know that we caught the mouse because we built a proper trap. We're distraught by the prospect that we are the mice and the mice are us and every living thing dies, whether in a trap or in an open field or in the talons of bird or in the wreckage of a car or in a hospital. I don't write this because I'm trying to convince anyone. I don't care if you agree with me or not. Whether you do or don't doesn't matter in the least. Nothing matters. Rather, I write these words because the absence of truth is the only truth I know. Because meaninglessness is the only thing I have. And because today I just can't bring myself to pretend otherwise.

the hardest struggle comes after the battle has been won
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:26 am EST, Feb 23, 2015

Deb Chachra:

I wonder if Boston Dynamics videos include people kicking their Big Dogs precisely to elicit this human sympathy towards what is, ultimately, weaponry.

Kashmir Hill:

This may be the first time police had to respond because of a robot-on-robot threat of violence.

D. K.:

Perhaps what gun control needs is a few advocates who are a little more visibly familiar with the sheer fun of holding a pistol and pulling the trigger.

Humera Khan:

More often than not, an agent is rewarded for catching a terrorist rather than for preventing and dissuading someone from becoming one.

The Economist:

The best time to start tackling future crimes is now.

Steven Bellovin:

I want to know how to think about the problem. We don't even have the right words. We can't make our systems Andromedan-proof if we don't know what we need to protect against them.

Ben Beeson, a partner at insurance broker Lockton:

The costs are becoming so great that we really need $1bn policies in light of the threats we are facing. The question is how do we get there and price risk, especially when the risks are changing every day.

Tom Streithorst:

The American military is deeply committed to force protection, to not losing soldiers. Captains tell you proudly their primary goal is to get through the tour without any fatalities. This is an admirable sign of human decency, but it is not particularly bellicose. It is impossible to imagine William the Conqueror, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, or Patton focusing above all else on not losing soldiers. Historically, officers are happy to use their men as cannon fodder if it will help them achieve their objectives.

Elizabeth D. Samet, professor at West Point:

We were all of us ... inhabiting an Odyssey in which the hardest struggle comes after the battle has been won.

[My cadets] are wondering whether they have what it takes to be lieutenants, while I'm thinking about what kinds of generals they might make.

Adam Gopnik:

Defiantly unapologetic irrationalism is, sad to say, still a winning strategy for power, all over the world. But we pay a huge price for its successes.

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